Monday, November 30, 2009

Love Actually Is All Around

It's Christmas time.

How do I know?

Well, there are a few clues that have found their way into my musings.

#1) Thanksgiving is over and done with. Mine was spent with family that I haven't seen in years, and although that makes for awkward conversations because you often don't know what the heck to talk about to someone you haven't spoken to in a decade, especially when there are 60+ people present, it also means that, heck, you get to talk to people you haven't in ten years! It's a strange thing, when the elders in your family transform from the important and aloof head honchos to something closer to peers - people who you can really talk to.
That's a problem with our world here in the break-neck-paced US of A. Not many people really talk to each other.
Anyway, all in all it was good times. And T and I neatly avoided both offense and tummy aches by having just a little of the holiday carnivorous fare. (bring more collard greens my way, they were AMAZING)
Being a vegger isn't easy at holiday time, lemmetellya.

#2) When we arrived in Hazleton on Friday, after a morning of Black Friday shopping (up at 3:30 and back in bed by a quarter to seven - there wasn't much I needed this year in stores. Ebay's now my best friend. Seriously. Not to mentioned things remembered, red envelope, overstock, etsy, can you tell I'm shopping online? SO convenient), and an afternoon of driving (barely skirting the Nothing, Never Ending Story style, and happy to only have a little hail splashing our windshield), the lights and decorations were up! I gasped in delight at the town center's tree, glowing from bottom to top, and I cooed in delight at the sweet holiday reminders hiding in sweet places all over T's parents' house. Warm and cozy. Just right. Especially when I realized that I'd left all of my winter coats down in Richmond. I thought I'd cry. It was a sad moment....

#3) I'm wearing my winter smell as of roughly two weeks ago and LOVING it. It's the little things, ya know?

#4) We watched Love Actually last night. After I watched it, laughing and crying, for the first time in '04, on a warm Floridian couch after the movie had been rented from Netflix (I'll admit it, I was late on the Love Actually bandwagon but I've made up for it since), it has been a permanent staple of my holiday season. Christmas hasn't started until I've seen 11-year-old Sam say "let's go get the sh*t kicked out of us by love"... It may not make sense, but it's the way things just are in the noggin. I need some Hugh Grant dancing to the Pointer Sisters, and I'm ready to go. His particular limp-shouldered-shuffle reminds me of my Dad. Sorry Hugh.
And Dad :)

So, as described above, the Christmas season has officially arrived for me. What about you? What are your go-to signs that it's time to break out the egg nog and peppermint bark?

Today's quote:
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
~Anais Nin

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Photo Retouching!

Over the past year or so, I've gotten lots of comments about the pictures on my blog.

Well, the truth is, I am not an awesome photographer.
(not even close)
But what I AM good at is retouching.

So, I'm offering to retouch photos to make some extra cash this holiday season, what with travel and all.

Here's the deal.
You send me a photo (email, of course, at charismb@yahoo.com),
including some notes in the body of the email about what you want done to the photo (clear skin, make colors pop, make it black and white, vignette, etc.),
And I'll retouch it for you, emailing you the new photo when complete.

The price will be $25 per photo, and that'll be taken care of via paypal.

Turnaround is quick, and this is great for holiday photos, especially since it's so popular nowadays to send out family photos on your holiday cards!

Anywhoo, here are some before & after examples:

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__



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Interested?
Questions?
Email me :)
charismb@yahoo.com

Today's quote:
"A merry heart is like medicine for the soul."
~Joyce C. Lock

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: The First Rule, by Robert Crais


When my package arrived in the mail a week and a half ago, I was excited and slightly nervous. After I randomly posted a review for French Women Don’t Get Fat on my blog, I’d been asked (again, randomly I suppose) to review a similar book in my spare time.
I’d been excited about that one’s arrival too. Then it came, and I was stuck on page 7 for a month. Page 8 took me three weeks to get through, and so on.

The book was horrible.

So bad, in fact, that I’m not mentioning it, or its author, because I don’t think anything is worse (not to mention classless) than to smear somebody on my blog. That said, I won’t lie either, so I was left in a quandary.

I literally COULD NOT read more than a page of the book without sighing in disgust. Seriously? I thought. So I sent an email asking what to do. “Sorry about your quandary!”, I received in a reply, “Can we send you another? Just to make it up? No pressure!”

Of course I accepted, and a weekish later, The First Rule arrived. I don’t ordinarily read this sort of a book. It’s a thriller, with an ex-mercenary hunting down folks who killed a friend of his. There are fight scenes, and prostitution rings, and a warehouse full of Chinese rifles, not to mention a stolen baby. Lots of drama. And who’d’ve thunk someone could write an exciting fight scene?

Anyway.

The book started out slow. I couldn’t quite work up a liking for the main character, named Pike (very warm and fuzzy), for quite a while. He was dry and a little cheesy, like the book. But not in a way that put me off, rather in a way that made me chuckle. That particular kind of cheesiness is par for the genre, and it reminded me what I was reading.

So for a couple of days, I picked up the book here and there and finished a chapter or two at each sitting. I like short chapters. They make the already fast pace zoom by even more quickly, and give a feeling of matter-of-factness that fits nicely with the gritty subject matter.

By my third or fourth day reading it (being about 1/3 of the way finished), I decided yesterday morning to just finish the darned thing. Why not? I had some time to kill, it was Sunday, and I may as well be able to right the review, no? Oh, and one other reason. I COULDN’T PUT THE FREAKING THING DOWN.

As I said, I don’t normally read this type of book. And the reviews on the back cover called it both fast-paced, and slow building. How can a book be both? I still don’t know if I could figure the answer out enough to put it in a bulleted list, but I can say that Crais definitely knows how to merge the two aspects into a fun and exciting book.

There were some twists in the second half that I didn’t expect, and maybe I had to read a couple of paragraphs over again because of the tangled plot, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. I like dense story lines.

So, the big question. Should you read this book? Well, if you want something life-changing and inspirational, then no. But, if you want a nice escape and a fun read, absolutely! I may just have to pick up another book or two from this series…

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chapel Chatter: Tip Topper

Earlier this week, my very first wedding-related order came in.
(yay!)It was the cake topper from Willow Tree. It's called "Promise."
I've always loved Willow Tree and the moment I saw this one I knew that it was the one.
The clasp of the hands, the tip of the heads, the serene feel. It's just so US.
So done. And done.
And now it's only a matter of time before I break out my paints to gently adjust the color of the statue to more truly reflect T and me a bit better...
(don't worry, I was an artist in a past life. I won't screw 'em up, promise. Pun intended)
And the best part? After the wedding, I actually WILL use it as a decoration in my house. So it's a win-win!
Happy Friday!

Today's quote:
"The music is different to each of us, but how beautiful the dance."
~Flavia

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Traipsing

This weekend, we went for a couple of mini-hikes around Richmond.

Camera in purse, I didn't want to miss the opportunity for some nice shots before the leaves all fall.
My little brother took us around to some spots he knew, such as Belle Isle, where the water was a little too high to get more that 200 feet along the path.
(that's what happens when it rains heavily for a WEEK. Another result is that I'm still lovin up the sun, three days in to blue skies...)
Ward (my little brother, who's now much bigger than me. It's weird) was a trail blazer, checking out all of the soggy paths for me before I went forward. My shoe choice was not all that intelligent - loafers that squelch if I look at a puddle...
But, while resting, we did end up getting a shot or two for the signing book at the wedding.
Then, yesterday, we went to Maymont just to take pics for that reason and got just about nothin. Oh well, we'll try it again later this week.
Until then, I'll be working away, wishing I was closer to the blue skies than on the other side of a pane of glass, tethered to my laptop...
Today's quote:
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." ~Beverly Sills

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just Because It's....Sunday?

...actually it's Saturday night, but close enough to Sunday in this noggin of mine...

No, more like because it's gorgeous.

And gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. Non-wearing-off goosebumps from the same song, now that's a rare and valuable thing.

Enjoy :)



Note: maybe I'm approximately seven thousand years behind the curve, but this is a new song to me. Either way, as of now I'm officially obsessed with it. Done and done.

PS: Allison Crowe is amazing. Well, obviously.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On a bored Wednesday night in Richmond...

Not to mention, a chilly and rainy and all around make-you-wanna-stay-indoors-at-all-costs night......chilly beverages from Trader Joe's hit the spot.

Just sayin.

Today's quote:
"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake
and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves
with each step I made. the acoustics of this season
are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed,
are as crisp as autumn air."

~Eric Sloane

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chapel Chatter: Fine Fittings

The appointment was set, and of course, we were late. We hopped into the car 15 minutes before we were scheduled to arrive, knowing that we had a half-hour drive ahead of us. Well, I didn’t know (Richmond is still very alien to me), but Mom informed me of our late status as we started to drive.

When researching dresses (Lazaro being my favorite designer, at the time), we found a boutique that supposedly carried his designs, more specifically, the one that I had fallen head over heels in love with:
...don't worry. I would never post pics of my wedding dress on a blog that I know T reads. See where this is going?

Unfortunately, we learned as we crawled down 95 after Friday in D.C., calling to make our Saturday appointment because, heck, we may as well be productive in a traffic jam, Jingles didn’t carry Lazaro anymore. We made the appointment anyway. Can't hurt to try stuff on, right?

Saturday morning, as we drove past multicolored forests lining the highway, my mind wandered. Mom asked me questions about Terry, about me, and about our plans. The next morning we were to walk the yard, figuring out just where the ceremony would be, where we’d put the food tables, the dance floor, the table that Terry and I would share for dinner (and probably not sit at for more than 5 minutes at any given time)...

We argued mildly over which exit to take (I was right), and had to backtrack a few miles, which put us farther away from our appointment time. I made a call on the road and was sweetly thanked for the heads-up.

Finally we pulled into the parking lot. Circling the complex where it was located, we found Jingles tucked away in a corner, and we parked right in front of a window sporting gauzy dresses and fall colors.

I wasn’t nervous. I actually hadn’t thought much about dress fittings. People had told me over and over that everything would change once I started trying things on, but I knew myself and my decision-making patterns. I knew what I wanted. I’m not one to waffle. I pick something and go with it, and seldom has this approach let me down.

dumdumdummmmm

The day was mild for November and we walked into the store unhindered by jackets and gloves. That may sound like a small thing, but not having to take a few minutes removing layers of thick staying-warm garmentage makes me feel light and breezy, which contributed to my experience of the first moments in the shop. As we rounded a decorated corner, dazzled by the rich colors and fabrics everywhere, we were greeted by Diane, who was tall and thin, with a feminine blonde bob and a soft voice.

We introduced ourselves and chatted about my ideal dress. I showed her the Lazaro image I’d printed and brought with me, and she commented at how prepared we were, then began to take us through their show room.
As Diane thumbed through the dresses on hooks and racks and mannequins, she talked to me about features of dresses and designers. We earmarked dress after dress as my head filled with names and fabrics and ribbons and chiffon and hand stitched rhinestones, and at the end of our tour along the dress-lined walls, I had 12 dresses to try. I didn’t fall in love with all of them upon first sight on the hanger, but it was the first time I’d done this, so I wanted to keep an open mind.

Diane ushered us into the dressing area. There was a flowery couch were Mom sat, a pedestal surrounded by mirrors, and a white wooden door that led to my dressing room, which had hooks and a rack to hang dresses on, as well as a large mirror. Diane made several trips back and forth as I watched (slightly nervous), bringing abundant armfuls of white fabric and lace, and before I knew it I was surrounded by white filmy beauty.

Trying on a wedding dress is an event all on its own. Each one was carefully taken off of the hanger and held open, so I could hold my palms together and dive in from the bottom of the skirt. Diane then raised the rest of the dress and layers of underskirts slid down my body and settled as the dress was slowly lowered and my head and shoulders emerged from the top.

note to first time brides trying on dresses: wear something substantial, like boy shorts. Trust me. It's embarrassing. And also one of those things that no one mentions til you're in naught but a g-string with someone you don't know...

Anyway.


The dresses at the shop are kept in large sizes, so a wider range of women can fit into them. Since they were much too large for me, Diane rigged the back with heavy industrial clips made of metal and rubber. We would button and zip, then she would stand behind me, pulling and clipping until, from the front, the dress was a perfect fit.

As per Diane's directions, I would first turn around, rustling, in order to get a look into the dressing mirror, then she would open the door with one hand and I would carefully take handfuls of skirts to keep from tripping as I stepped out to show my mother, Diane following, holding my train. I’d take the 3 or 4 steps to the pedestal, then step up onto it (doing my best not to fall over - fortunately, no cracked heads here...yet) as Diane bent to straighten my skirts as they fell around the base of the small raised circle.

Don’t get me wrong, being the center of attention and having people tell you that you’re beautiful is a pleasant experience, how could it not be? However, in my case, it was also a little embarrassing at first. I’m not used to everyone’s eyes being on me, and in crowds I tend to skirt the edges and sometimes even sneak away into quiet corners or side rooms. But I smiled and tried to be gracious, and soon the experience felt more natural.

Diane gave me a covered rubber band for my hair, so I could tie it back into a casual version of how I’m planning to wear it on my wedding day. It fell around my shoulders and down my back in soft curls (thank goodness I decided to go curly that day, my hair alone was a topic of conversation and the experience would've been totally different if I'd broken out the straightener), and my clavicles and shoulders glowed in the many lights shining from the ceiling, angled in toward the pedestal.

Dress after dress we tried on, retiring to the room, taking one off, putting the next on, sometimes with the skirts not falling as they should, so I’d snake a blind hand down the inside of the dress, tugging on thin lalyers, until they settled into place.

Some dresses were flattering, some weren’t. And I quickly got over the small amount of modesty I have, considering that I’ve never been accompanied by a stranger into a dressing room before. Diane was sweet and gentle, not to mention complementary, and we chatted about her Art History education and how, upon retiring, she and her husband had moved back South to Richmond after living in Washington D.C. I told her about my work and education (which sparked the familiar "what IS transpersonal psychology?" discussion), and she told me about hers and about her wedding, which was the last candlelight ceremony held in the William and Mary chapel (because of choice information given to school administrators by the fire marshal that night).

As I relaxed, my awkwardness went away and once, a couple dresses in, I emerged from the dressing room, stepped onto the pedestal, rested my hands by my sides and gazed into the mirror, feeling truly, for the first time, like a bride. My tanned skin shone against the contrast of the white dress. Rhinestones on the dress sparkled in the lights, and Diane brought over a long and sheer veil, which she smartly slid into my hair, just at the perfect spot. The falling chiffon framed my shoulders and arms in white, and I smiled at my reflection.
I’m getting married. All my life, I’ve thought about how this would feel, and here it is.
My hair rested against my shoulders and cheeks in dark curls against the lightness of the veil. Diane commented on the dress, and so did my mother. Was this the one?

As I tried on more dresses, we earmarked “likers” and quickly discarded the ones that didn't work.
There was a trunk show going on, so I got to try on a couple of dresses that the women at Jingle’s had never seen modeled before. From time to time Diane would call an associate to see a new dress and they would step into the doorway and smile.

Once, trying on a new dress, Diane pulled the back together as she started zipping me up, exclaiming that she couldn’t believe it! A dress finally fit! She attached a hook at the top, and I, for the first time since coming into the dressing room, moved with the confidence that comes from knowing your clothes won’t fall off!

She exclaimed over the dress, a very modern design, and I stepped out of the dressing room and up onto the pedestal. This one was gorgeous, and unique. I’d never seen anything like it. Colorful and detailed - and my first thought, when sliding into the dress, was about the hours that must have gone in to creating it.

Everyone loved this dress. But there was a problem. The rich colors on the dress absolutely clashed with the wedding design. No worry, they didn’t clash with the reception! This would be my reception dress for the second reception in Hazleton, a week after the ceremony.

In the end, there were three final dresses. We decided upon one for the wedding, and another for the reception and we left with notes and numbers and descriptions and prices. Months ago, I found that, by ordering online off of a few choice websites, you can pay about 1/10 of the cost of a dress that would run into the thousands in a boutique. So we searched the three dresses when we arrived home, and found that only two were available this way. No problem, the decision was made for us.

So my dresses are selected. The order will go in today. And things are moving forward.

Of course, I quickly discovered when comparing prices online that these particular dresses aren't anywhere NEAR as beautiful when you only see a picture. Pics don't do them justice, not in the least. However, for the blogger cause of exposing every bit of life to the public eye (btw, T, do NOT click on these), here are some teaser pics for the wedding and reception.

Yes, I know that I only went to ONE bridal shop, and that if I undergo more fittings, there will be more beautiful dresses, and my mind could change. But isn't that always true? I could find more options indefinitely and wind myself tighter and tighter into a know of stress and indecision. But I do love these. They're great. So why look further? Sooner or later, you have to choose something. And the wedding will be lovely, so why stress over things like this? So, dresses, done and done.

Later, thinking about the difference between what I’d imagined growing up and what I’ve selected for my dresses, I realized, in another way, that I’ve grown up. The gaudy and sparkling dress that I’d always pictured doesn’t fit me anymore. Now that feels like too much. Not to mention, pretentious and overdone. Of course, the ones I picked are still detailed, and still adorned with sparkles, but they’re not overkill. Not too much, not too little. Just right.


Today's quote:
"Follow the magic in your heart. It is the inspiration for your life." ~Adรจle Basheer

Update.

I got my first snarky comment as a result of this post.
Sweet! I've made it! Isn't that what they say when people start leaving anonymous mean words behind?
Anyway.
The comment was that, after the great service I received at Jingles, buying the dress online was "cold".
My answer:
1) I'd agree, except, as I said below, Diane told me herself that they didn't get paid on commission. So the great service she gave me wouldn't have shown up on her paycheck from my specific sale. In fact, she said that she knew it was our first trip to a bridal salon, and that
if we decided to purchase any of the dresses, we could call back to place our order and it wouldn't matter who put it in.
2) The reason I even found out about the online savings was because we weren't allowed to take pics in the shop, so I looked up the dresses online to see the images there so I could decide on one. While searching the designs, I found out that I could order them and save. If I'd gone to another bridal shop and they'd had the same dress for hundreds of dollars less, I would have bought it there. I don't see this as being any different.

Either way, Jingles had great service. But it was more economical to go elsewhere. So I'll always recommend Jingles, but who wouldn't want to cut their budget if possible? I think it was a great find!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Day in D.C. (including a nomad's guide)

Thursday afternoon I got a call from my mother asking if we'd like to go to Washington D.C. for the day.

Of course, she was asking because she had a conference there and didn't jump for joy at the idea of driving alone. She'd benefit from the ride, we'd benefit from the opportunity to jaunt around the city (I heard "Smithsonian" and was hooked).

However, I needed to do work. T needed to work on law school applications. So I decided to be a grown up and decline, and opt instead to plant it in front of my laptop all day. Mom would take the train instead.

Sigh.

Friday morning, after a run, while we were doing a little Pilates in the living room, I saw Mom heading out.

I asked as she passed the living room doorway if she was headed to the office before her trip. After all, her meeting in D.C. started at 1:00pm, and it was about 6:45 in the morning.

"No, I have to go catch the train. It leaves at 8."
"What? I thought that you'd just ride one up when your meeting was and come back afterward!"
"Well this is the only trip up today. I won't get back tonight til about 9:30 because the train back leaves at 7."
"Geez, that's awful, why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't know until I went to book the trip. No problem though. Have a good day!"

And out she went.

I sat back down, looking at T with guilt in my eyes. We exchanged a couple sentences, and I darted to the side door, gesturing frantically at her to come back in (I didn't have shoes on. It's COLD here). She had no idea what I was talking about, so she cracked her door. I cracked the side door too and called to her to see whether she could cancel the train ticket. She didn't know. So, leaving the car running in order to warm up, she came back inside and made a call.
note: this was at about 7:00. I'm sure our neighbors thought that exchange was awesome. I like to do those nice things when I'm home.

The ticket was canceled, and three and a half hours later, we loaded up the car to drive north.

I listened to an audio book, T and Mom read and dozed, and the drive was uneventful. Who'd've thunk that I would miss my highway drives after I overdosed on them so completely in California?

Anyway.

We got there, dropped Mom off, and put the Smithsonian's address into our GPS.

I'll spare you the gory and blood-soaked details of the next 45 minutes.
(I mean metaphorically, of course).
Construction and sirens and confusing turnabouts, combined with a schizophrenic GPS (get your sh*t TOGETHER, Clarissa! That's her name. Cause she explains it all. Or so we thought...) all resulted in confused drivers, stress levels through the roof, lots of four-letter words and dirty looks, horns blowing (not AT us, but AROUND us, which is just as bad when you're not used to it), a Chinese fire drill, and a cranky couple.

note: As I'm spell checking, I notice that I've used the term "Chinese fire drill." Is that in any way offensive? I honestly have no idea. And I have no clue where it came from, so I can't tell in that way. Please let me know, because I'd hate to be saying stuff that spreads bad feelings unknowingly. Anyway.

We drove all over the place in LA. However, driving in LA is difficult at first because everyone drives QUICKLY. Quickly, efficiently, and yes, very rudely. But this was an entirely different universe of bad driving. We weren't used to it. So we ended up forgetting the Smithsonian (one would think that a place entirely made for tourism and education would make it easy for people to visit it, wouldn't you? Not here...) and instead circling that area of D.C. for another half hour, looking for a parking garage.

Note: Besides the bad driving, D.C. is expensive. Like, really. Like, coming from a girl who just moved out of Los Angeles. So that's saying something...

But? It's beautiful. So I dragged T on a 2-hour long jaunt (literally, like walking and stuff) across the city.
I thought it was good times.

Eventually he came around and agreed. After the road rage wore off. (I didn't blame him)
We went to see some of the sights,
Then got a little freaked out when we saw this:
(look closer)
Until we heard that this was the case:
Eventually it was time to head back, and since traffic was pretty much the worst imaginable, we saw the rest of the sights from the car as it took us 45 minutes to drive two miles to pick Mom up.
Then, back on the road to Richmond. A drive that had taken us two hours in the morning took us just about six in the evening. A big rig crash. Not pretty, but evidently interesting enough to make everyone and their Uncle Charlie slow down to a crawl to see it...

But, a good day nonetheless.
And I got some good shots, so I'm happy.The end.

PS: I'm starting this new thing on m'blog called "A Nomad's Guide." Richmond's is in the works and will come in several installments. But, as for D.C.:

A Nomad's Guide to Washington, D.C.
1) Get a map. M.A.P. Map. Don't depend on a GPS, they can't make heads or tails of the roads either.
2) Expect to get frustrated on the road. I'd go ahead and put any angry music you have on as soon as you enter the city limits. The theme to Batman (instrumental, of course), works well. I know from experience.
3) Parking is difficult, and expensive. Be prepared.
4) The scenery is beautiful, and you can walk to just about all of the main sites in D.C. If you're there on a mild day weather-wise, this makes for a lovely afternoon.
note: It's MUCH easier to find your way around on foot than behind the wheel. One-way streets contribute to this.

The End. (really)

Today's quote:
"Changes in life are not only possible and predictable, but to deny them is to be an accomplice to one's own unnecessary vegetation."
~Gail Sheehy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

De-Lurking....and....GO!

Good evening lovelies.

It is currently 8:01pm and I am feeling a need to connect...

...these things happen when one leads a nomadic lifestyle...

(if you're wondering, the drive down from PA was uneventful and we're back in Richmond now, until after Turkey Day.)

So anyway, I am making today (today = whichever day you, yes YOU, are reading this post) national de-lurker day!

I'd love to hear about you.

Where do you live? What do you like? Why do you visit my little corner of the blogosphere?

...I'm feeling disconnected and I'm not a fan of that at all y'all....
(wow I just made a rhyme...)

So speak up! Let's get to know each other.

As for me, I'm sipping a glass of Well Red and eating a delicious Trader Joe's dark chocolate truffle choc bar, DELICIOUS. And T is in the adjoining room reconnecting with some college buddy or the other on the phone (that boy and his woodwork friends, love it)...

Anyway, have a lovely day!

And I wasn't joking about de-lurking. I'll be checking my comments. Say hi! (I'm lonely here in the RIC where I know no one)...

Monday, November 2, 2009

On the Road Again...

This morning we'll pack
again
and load up the car
again
to drive
again
back down to Virginia.

I kid. I'm not really annoyed about it... I actually like driving long distances, it gives me a chance to clear my noggin - and let's be honest, there's no jamming quite like car jamming.

On another note,
The sky has been mostly gray and overcast during our stay here in PA, and I have it under good advisement that it'll be this way, more or less, until spring dusts green on the world again in, oh, maybe 6 months or so.

After a chat discussing the merits of sunny California skies over gray Pennsylvania ones, I had an epiphany. Yes, of course the cloud cover can be seen as oppressive and sad. It could be viewed as a cover pressing down on you, keeping out the light in more ways than one. Don't levels of depression go up in winter months and aren't they always higher in cloudy cities?
But.
The cloud cover could also be seen as just that - a cover - a blanket. Snuggling you, tucking you in, holding you safe during the winter. I know that it doesn't make logical sense. Less clouds make you warmer, let the sun in, clouds don't in any real way keep you safe, blah blah blah but go with me here.

As someone who's lived without any seasons to speak of for years and years, there's a richness that I'm feeling in my life now that I have the luxury of staying in tune with the cycles of the year in this way. What if we took winter, and the chill, and the rich food, and the involuntarily slower life style and did with it the same thing that nature does? Rest, and germinate? Spend the winter months in the home, with each other, enjoying their company and planning for the next year? Then, when the summer comes, we'd spend our lives out and about, enjoying the sun, eating lighter foods, living as nature does, vibrantly and loudly and brightly? (not to mention tanned and toned, which I'm sure would happen)...

Of course, that would also require that we make it an everyday practice during the summer to get out and enjoy the weather when it's enjoyable...and nowadays most people spend all their time holed up inside, no matter the season, being entertained by various forms of electronics...

But you can bet your buttons that's what I'll be doing, especially now that time outside has lowered in availability such that the demand has increased exponentially (within me, at least!)

Oh yeah, and a quick note on Vitamin D.
Vitamin D, which comes to us in various foods (although, since it's usually added in from a lab, our bodies don't really absorb it that way) and via sunlight against our skin, is cited as one of the possible reasons that we get all sad and stuff when it's dark outside in times like winter and rainy seasons. Or the lack of Vitamin D, anyway. However. All you actually need in order
to stay within a healthy Vitamin D range is 15-30 minutes of sun on your face and hands each day. Yes, even in cloudy weather. And, as I always used to tell my students in my health and fitness classes, cloudy days DON'T actually mean less UV rays. We just assume they do (which results in lots and lots of sunburns in rainy Florida, lemme tell ya).

So I don't think it's the lack of actual sun in winter that gets people down. I think it's the uninviting conditions outside that make us not want to go out at all. If we do go outside, even for a half hour walk or run or raking of the leaves or, heck, conversation on the phone standing in the back yard, we'll be fine.
So there you go. Put on your gloves, grab a friend, and adopt an early-evening walking practice. You'll be happier. I promise.

Happy chilly Monday!

Today's quote:
"Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." ~James Thurber